Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane



There’s a whole other world out there and it’s called HATS!



These things are expensive – and to wear for just one hour at a wedding ceremony seemed an extravagance too far. I do have a budget for this outfit. You can hire hats here, but really they’re just half the price of buying one and would I ever get the colour and style I wanted?

I tried on fascinators (an item of unknown purpose) and the lady in the shop sidled up behind me and told me discretely that it was on back to front! So that went back on the shelf. Anyway, they only came in black, grey and cream and nearly cost the same as a hat.

So, while at the coast this week we went to Hope and Gloria, a most delightful shop that sells vintage clothing, accessories, homewares: you can get your nails painted and hair styled; a cup of coffee and a bun; and they organise craft and sewing classes too. In a old leather suitcase was a collection of hats for £3 each. The one I really wanted was too small but I managed to select this one – almost Audrey Hepburn and totally the wrong colour.


DSCN4195While having coffee with my teenage son and the teenage son of my friend I wore the hat – just thought I’d embarrass them to maximum effect.

I figured I could dye it or spray paint it to match, wrap a matching fabric band around the brim,stick a few feathers in and I’d be done. However, I had envisaged a large hat – wide brimmed and saucer-like – it’s not everyday you get to wear a hat, so you may may as well go for it.

Royal Wedding - Wedding Guests And Party Make Their Way To Westminster Abbey

Princess MIchael of Kent at a royal wedding

I researched fabric paint, sprays and dyes but colours weren’t right. I was after a particular shade of red – more crimson / wine than pillar box to tone in with the lips on my shoes.



So I did this:

Materials – heavy duty interfacing, 1m fabric of crimson taffeta, grosgrain ribbon, old hat that fits, needle and thread

Measure around your head (mine’s 11″) and cut a strip of the ribbon to comfortably fit around your head with a little leftover for overlap.

Decide on the width of the brim and draw a circle on the interfacing marking the centre point. Do some complicated geometry stuff and draw a smaller circle to fit the ribbon ie. a circumference of 11″. Measure in 1cm from this inner circle and cut it out.

I had bits of corners and strips of interfacing so I machined these to the first circle for extra stiffness.

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Lay the brim on to two layers of fabric and trace around it including the inner circle. Cut out with seam allowances. Sew around the outer edge, trim, turn and press. Wrestle the brim into the fabric making sure edges are aligned and it’s lying flat. Pin excessively to avoid shifting; top stitch the outer edge and around the inner 11″ circle. Clip the excess of the inner circle out to the stitching line.



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Take the old hat, dismantle it and cut off the brim so you are left with the crown. Cover the top and wee bit down the sides with fabric, either gluing or hand stitching.

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Slide the new brim over the crown – glue or hand stitch together. I stitched my hat as I didn’t have fabric glue. Stitching hats is hard!


Make a band to cover the edges of the brim, pleat and stitch (or glue) in place. Position the join where you intend to put embellishments later so it will be covered up.


Sew the ribbon on the inside of the hat to cover the join and make it comfortable to wear.


Now the fun begins –

Make flowers, buy feathers and ribbons and decorate to your heart’s desire. Sew the decorations in place or glue. I’m in favour of sewing them on because then later you can easily cut them off and replace them with new colours or styles.

I used up nearly 1m of fabric to make this flower – using this method – so be prepared.



It’s big!

Not quite Holly Golightly at Tiffany’s more like Eliza Doolittle at the races











Dress of Two Halves

Spurred on by my recent re-hash of the Vogue 1312 dress into a skirt, I went searching through the wardrobe for ‘others’.

I don’t know about you, but I have some sort of strange and possibly unhealthy, emotional attachment to things I’ve made – even those that aren’t perfect. When clearing out old clothes I find it much easier to give away RTW, even expensive ones, rather than part with a wadder. So my sewing room is fast becoming a graveyard of unworn dresses and shirts.

You may remember this.. Vintage Vogue 8851ImageImageMade in Paul Smith cotton shirting. It was OK, nothing special and I’ve worn it once. Probably for the photo. The fabric is deliciously smooth and soft but the dress did nothing for me. So out came the scissors…….

As you can see there is a waist seam at the back but none at the front and the front band extends well below waist length. The back is fitted but the front is loose.

Cutting a dress into a skirt is not always as simple as hacking off the top and making a waistband.

Instead of just cutting into the dress, I unpicked most of the seams apart from the bodice/sleeve construction and the skirt. A nice job to do in the shade of our big tree in the garden. I ended up with a top half and a bottom.

The skirt fronted needed darts for fit and the dress length zip was cut in half and extra stitches added as a stopper at the top – saved me having to re-insert the zip, though the in-seam side pocket had to go. There were enough left-overs from the original make in the stash box to fashion a waistband. I re-used the front band and added this to the front of the skirt as a detail.

ImageImageThe back still has the pleat so ease of walking and sitting is not restricted. The fabric wrinkles like mad – gives the skirt a loved and lived look.Image

Then I was left with the bodice. So much work went into this that I couldn’t just discard it, so I took a closer inspection as to how I could utilise it. The original dress had a huge 3″ hem, which was cut off when hemming the ‘new’ skirt which meant I had a bit more fabric to play with.

In the end I re-fashioned a jacket.

Sleeves and neckline remained intact but the front seam was opened and finished; the extra hem fabric was added as a band around the bottom of the jacket; added two patch pockets and sewed on two decorative buttons left over from the original dress cuffs.ImageImage

I won’t wear the two together – too matchy – but the jacket is a great little throw over especially to cover shoulders and arms in extreme sunshine.

From one dress – two new garments. And no fabric purchased!